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Dollar stands tall as coronavirus fears fuel rush for funding

The dollar extended its gains on Wednesday and hit new multi-year highs against both the Australian and New Zealand dollars, as companies and investors worried by the coronavirus outbreak rushed to the world’s most liquid currency.

As major currencies wilted against the greenback, the Norwegian crown hit a new record low of $10.4564., signs of stress was everywhere as global central banks resumed their efforts to keep money markets functioning normally.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Tuesday it would reinstate a funding facility used during the 2008 financial crisis to get credit directly to businesses and households.

Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are due to hold U.S. dollar auctions later on Wednesday, which are likely to be closely watched. The Swiss central bank will also meet and could direct further firepower at its economy.

“This is a story of a strong dollar. The Fed’s action was better than doing nothing, but at the same time the focus is on signs of when this crisis will end,” said Jane Foley, senior FX strategist at Rabobank.

“Everyone understands the shortfalls of central banks. They can’t actually physically get people back through the doors of shops.”

Markets have crumbled this month as investors liquidated nearly everything for cash – driving up the dollar’s value and the cost of borrowing the greenback abroad.

The U.S. dollar was last up nearly 0.5% against a basket of currencies, after hitting an almost three-year high in earlier trading. It has gained more than 5% over the past two weeks. The index rose about the 100 level for the first time since 2017. 

Export exposed currencies fared particularly badly versus the greenback.

The Australian dollar sunk to a fresh 17-year low of $0.59215 on Wednesday, while the New Zealand dollar hit a decade low of $0.5850 cents.

Only perceived safe-haven currencies managed to hold their ground against a strengthening greenback with the safe-haven yen up around 0.2% to 107.42 yen while the Swiss franc up by a similar magnitude to $0.9598 francs.

“It all stems from a shortage of US dollars,” said Gunter Seeger, senior vice president in investment-grade fixed income at New York asset manager PineBridge Investments.

“People are very, very nervous,” Seeger said.

“Everyone’s nervous about the virus, about oil prices, about their job, about everything.”

Source: CNBC/Reuters

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